Environment | National | Politics

Tribes call for establishment of Bears Ears National Monument






Eric Descheenie, the co-chair of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, speaks at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on October 14, 2015. Photo from Protect Bears Ears

Tribal leaders from Utah, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico held a press conference in Washington, D.C., on Thursday to show support for a new national monument.

The Bears Ears National Monument would cover 1.9 million acres of important ancestral and sacred sites in Utah. Tribal leaders from the region want President Barack Obama to protect the land for future generations.

“This proposal originates from the heart of Indian Country,” said Eric Descheenie, a member of the Navajo Nation who serves as co-chair of the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition. “By protecting these sacred ancestral lands we can take a very important step towards healing.”

The Navajo Nation is among two dozen tribes that officially back the monument. The National Congress of American Indians, the largest inter-tribal organization, also passed a resolution of support.


Cedar Mesa in Utah was home to the ancestors of today's Pueblo and other tribes. Photo by Don Romnes

“This destruction of our sacred sites—including the gravesites of our ancestors—deeply wounds us,” said Regina Lopez-Whiteskunk, a council member for the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe in Colorado. “Bears Ears should have been protected long ago. It has been central to our creation and migration stories since time immemorial.”

Bears Ears could be included in a Public Lands Initiative that's being developed to address land issues in the state. Utah lawmakers said they are open to the idea although they claimed not everyone supports it.

"The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition is an important stakeholder in the Public Lands Initiative. The Coalition represents many Native American voices that have an interest in how lands in San Juan County are managed,' four Republicans from Utah said in a statement. "While many Native Americans who live in Utah oppose the Coalition's proposal, we welcome the input and recommendations nonetheless. Our offices have now received over 65 detailed proposals from various stakeholder groups regarding land management in eastern Utah. We remain committed to reviewing each proposal and producing a final PLI bill that is balanced and broadly supported."

A monument declaration by Obama wouldn't need Congressional approval.

Get the Story:
Tribes Ask President Obama to Designate Bears Ears as National Monument (Indian Country Today 10/15)
Tribes join forces to push Obama for new national monument in Utah (Cronkite News 10/15)
Tribal Coalition Proposes New Monument (KUER 10/15)
Tribes ask President for massive new monument in San Juan County (Fox13 10/15)
Tribes outline proposal for national monument in Utah (AP 10/15)
Tribal coalition in Washington, D.C., pushing for Bears Ears National Monument (The Deseret News 10/16)
Tribal leaders to Obama: Name a new monument in Utah to protect our lands (The Salt Lake Tribune 10/16)

Related Stories:
Jim Enote: Bears Ears worthy of status as national monument (10/14)
Tribes call for new national monument on sacred lands in Utah (8/5)